There’s no question we are a little pissed off from Sunday’s game. Not because the Penguins made a 10 second lapse in ability and skill, mostly just because everyone is somehow viewing this game as a catastrophic ending to the season. We didn’t know that you could lose a best of 7 series 1 loss to 2 wins. Nonetheless, we’re going to have some fun to alleviate the stress of this week by playing our favorite game: Stud of the Week! This week with a defense-first tilt.
Paul Martin: If Paul-Mart had played the whole regular season, and if he had played it the way he’s played the last 5 games (minus the whole 28.6 situation, of which he was part of) Paul Martin WOULD BE the Penguins’ finalist for the Norris Trophy. I’m not kidding. So far this series he has earned almost three more minutes of TOI than Kris Letang, not an insignificant amount over a three game stretch. He’s produced the same 9 points in 9 games as Kris Letang and perhaps most tellingly, he’s a +8 (tops amongst all defensemen) compared to Tanger’s +3. Not bad for a guy who is half of the “shutdown pairing” for the Penguins.
Speaking of the other half, there’s no question that Brooks Orpik has been instrumental in helping Paul-Mart to such success and confidence. But you know what? Paul Martin has been one of the true superstars on this team all playoffs.
Brenden Morrow: man did he have a bad opening series. I nearly wrote a piece suggesting he be benched. Now we know that it had a lot to do with the Islanders, and not him, but he has rebounded nicely. He made his first goal of the postseason count netting the game winner in Game 2 off of a nifty redirect. Even more important, though, has been his play on the forecheck and in the d-zone.
There’s nothing else we can say about Morrow being a “heart and soul” player. But he sure is proving it. Has he been the best player on the ice? No. Has he tried harder than everyone else on the ice? Yes. I just like watching him play so here’s a video.
Brandon Sutter: as with Morrow, it’s hard to fathom how bad he was in the first round. Unlike Morrow, he didn’t have the excuse of age or diminished skating ability. All year we’ve used Sutter’s smooth skating and quickness as a distinguishing factor between him and the departed Jordan Staal. But he didn’t have it against the Isles. He was slow, he was lost, he looked weak, exactly unlike what we’ve come to expect.
It was nerves, playoff nerves for a 23 year old without any playoff experience. And that’s okay, because once he got his bearings he’s been the cornerstone of the Penguins’ late-game efforts to forecheck the game to a successful conclusion. And he’s been good at it.
But this week our Stud goes to the guy who has picked up the team in both ends of the rink, the guy who is most hungry for another Cup and another Conn Smythe.
Evgeni Malkin: he’s only managed three points this series after scoring 11 in round one, but he’s been a thousand times better in this series. His back pressure has been essential in creating the effective 1-2-2 which has totally stifled the Senators attempts to gain the zone. After a slow start, Geno is up to 7 takeaways, and nearly all of them have come in this series. That’s great for a guy who Mike Milbury once described as a “crack fiend” who can only play offense.
He looks like the best player in the world. A man possessed in every sense of the word. Wait, did I just call Geno the best player in the world? Yes I did. And I mean it. Who has been as great in both ends of the ice as Geno? I’ll be the first to tell you Sid hasn’t, especially with his plummeting faceoff percentage. The next two answers are also teammates: Hank and Datsyuk. Well they’ve defied the odds with their good play, but with 10 and 8 points respectively they aren’t in the upper stratum of offense. And who else even deserves mentioning? Geno has this team right now and he will carry them well. That’s why he’s our Stud of the Week.
Been a long time since we addressed the Penguins’ Stud of the Week. But in a week where a ton of different things happened, and when the Pens have four days off in a row, it only seem right to come back to it.
But first, some news. Surprisingly good read from Rob Rossi about the efforts the Penguins have taken to create a winning environment from top to bottom in Pittsburgh. Still surreal that Jarome Iginla is a Pittsburgh Penguin, and that he seems dead set on staying that way til the end of his career.
The Penguins became the first Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff berth when the Sabres beat the Devils in a shootout Saturday night. Also, doing a little math it looks like the Penguins are magic number of 2 away from winning the Atlantic Division and guaranteeing a top three seeding in the playoffs (the Rangers can reach a maximum point output of 60 [9 games left X 2 points each = 18 points, currently have 42]). Assuming the Pens are able to win the division, they are only a magic number of 2 away from clinching a top 2 seed overall in the East, the now division-leading Washington Capitals have a maximum output of 60 points (9 games to play, 18 point maximum output).
It looks like Kris Letang will be back in the lineup very soon. He participated in full team practice today and will join the team for their forthcoming road trip. The news is not so good for James Neal who has been diagnosed with a concussion. This doesn’t really come as a surprise, but he won’t travel with the team. Beau Bennett has been recalled and chances are good that he’ll get to play alongside Geno and Iggy, not too bad for a rookie. Get the Stud after the break.
We created this award to recognize the best player for the Penguins in the past week. This doesn’t have to be the leading scorer or anything like that, this is the guy who contributes the most to victory–it could go to a guy who was dominant in the faceoff circle, who drew a bunch of penalties that resulted in goals, or laid some game changing hits.
Pens went 3-0 this week and, generally speaking, they won three games they should have won. Admittedly none of these were that simple: Ottawa, especially before losing their two best players, were occasionally dominant, and still ought to be considered a playoff contender. Playing the Jets in Winnipeg is never easy and coming from behind with less than 10 minutes left in the game is no mean feat.
With that said there does not seem to be one guy who stood above all others this week, so what follows are several strong candidates.
Really up and down week for the Pens last week. Started with two marquee victories over the Islanders and Capitals, shutdown D and prolific offense, over the weekend though the Pens ran into the buzzsaw that is the New Jersey Hockey Devils. As such it’s hard to feel really strongly one way or the other about how the Pens played this week. Our Stud of the Week for this week will reflect this roller coaster of emotion.
We created this award to recognize the best player for the Penguins in the past week. This doesn’t have to be the leading scorer or anything like that, this is the guy who contributes the most to victory–it could go to a guy who was dominant in the faceoff circle, who drew a bunch of penalties that resulted in goals, or laid some game changing hits. We all know who is putting the puck in the net, but hockey, perhaps more than any other sport, is a team affair and we want to recognize the unsung heroes that make the Penguins so great to watch and root for. After the first weekend of the season we gave the inaugural award to Paul Martin for blowing us away with his unreal play-making, skating, and defensive zone presence. Two weeks ago Sid earned the award for keeping the team from turning on itself despite some ugly losses to some traditionally bad teams. As one of the best players in the league last week we had no choice but to give the award to Chris Kunitz.
This week we’re going in a different direction check it out after the break.
We created this award to recognize the best player for the Penguins in the past week. This doesn’t have to be the leading scorer or anything like that, this is the guy who contributes the most to victory–it could go to a guy who was dominant in the faceoff circle, who drew a bunch of penalties that resulted in goals, or laid some game changing hits. In the first weekend of the season we gave the award to Paul Martin for shocking us with his smart play and smooth skating.
Definitely a different feel to this piece this week with the Pens going an uninspired 1-2-0 and looking like a different team this week.
If we weren’t interested in convincing people that we didn’t invent this award just to honor Paul Martin we would give it to him again this week. His 30:26 of ice time in yesterday’s crucial win is epic. The most we’ve seen from a Penguin in the regular season in a long time. Further, even in the Pens losses earlier in the week, he and Brooks Orpik continued to earn the moniker of “shutdown pair ” by simply not allowing goals while they’re on the ice.
But we’re making it an unofficial rule that you can’t win for more than one week consecutively. Look at the contestants after the jump.